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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Belt

SPORT: Same old story as Leeds United limply exit FA Cup

In the days leading up to Leeds United's FA Cup 5th Round tie at Fulham, a poll ran on Twitter asked Leeds fans whether they'd prefer to exit the cup and secure survival or win the FA Cup and be relegated.

I fell into the latter camp which roughly accounted for just 1/5 of the votes cast at the time. So, 4/5 of voters would prefer Leeds stay in the Premier League and forsake a trophy.

The poll suggests that the Premier League is king. Of course I want Leeds to stay in the league this season, but I found the poll a bit depressing. What happened to wanting to win trophies? And not just any trophy, but the second most prestigious to win in English football!

This league-focused pragmatism is common in modern football. 'Concentrate on the league' goes the refrain when Leeds inevitably come a cropper in the cup. Okay when the league provides some optimism, but the last couple of seasons have provided little to shout about.

What lay in wait at Craven Cottage was an opportunity to be one step away from Wembley (thanks to the semis being hosted at the national stadium - devaluing the value of getting there a little although that's perhaps for another blog).

As I stated in my last Leeds article, the Whites have a terrible recent record in the competition. Having overcome potential banana skins at Cardiff and Accrington in the two previous rounds, Leeds had the opportunity to go deep in the FA Cup for the first time in a very long time.

The writing was on the wall, with Javi Gracia making an instant impact in the dugout on Saturday as Leeds grinded out a 1-0 win over bottom side, Southampton. Financially, survival is everything and if resting players gave us a better chance of toppling Chelsea in the league this weekend, then so be it.

In contrast, these are heady times for Fulham. Flying high in sixth in the league, with safety assured, the Cottagers could afford to go gung ho in the cup tie. They named a recognisable line-up whereas Leeds rested some big hitters and tried out a new 4-3-3 system, with a very conservative midfield of Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Marc Roca tasked with controlling the game.

Like many games this season, Leeds played well but failed to take their chances, whilst the hosts scored two crackers from long range. There's only so much you can take of acknowledging a good performance but not getting the result and this recurring theme ultimately saw the end of Jesse Marsch's tenure as Leeds head coach.

Yes, it was the FA Cup and survival in the Premier League is huge, but it was disappointing to see another FA Cup campaign end before it truly got going.

Unless a dubious person/group with outrageous wealth steps in, we are destined to join the also-rans in the Premier League, feeding off the scraps and hoping to remain in the division for as long as possible. But, without upward momentum, what kind of existence is this?

Another season goes by without an exciting cup run (although nice for once not to be on the end of a lower league scalp!) and let's just hope that the outcome wished for by 80% of the poll can now come true.


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